February 2005


Author: Paul Robeson Library Reference Department
Institution: Rutgers

Interviewer: Michael Bolam
Respondent: Vibiana Bowman, Reference Librarian
Library: Paul Robeson Library, Rutgers the State University, Camden, New Jersey
Contact: bowman@camden.rutgers.edu

Title: How to Avoid Plagiarism

Author’s description: The pedagogical goals of the "How to Avoid Plagiarism" tutorial are that students will use information in an ethical manner and will recognize the art of citation as part of the scholarly communication process.

Q. What was the motivation for creating the “How to Avoid Plagiarism" tutorial?

A. This tutorial was originally part of a text-based research guide for students on the library web site developed in the late 1990s. Over the years the Reference Librarians became aware that students were really struggling with the concept of plagiarism, i.e. our students did not seem to have a clear idea of what plagiarism was and, therefore, did not know how to avoid it. “How to Avoid Plagiarism” was our response to meet that need. First we developed a text-based document (on the web) and two years ago we developed the interactive movie/tutorial.

Q. How long did the development process take? Who else was involved in the program’s creation and design?

A.From beginning to end it took about a year to create the interactive movie and tutorial. We had the advantage of having the text-based materials as a starting point.

The educational content for the movie is based on the material originally created by the Paul Robeson Library Reference Department. Vibiana Bowman wrote the script and storyboard. The programming and visual graphics are the work of John Gibson, Instructional Technology Specialist for the Paul Robeson project.

Q. How was the project funded?

A.There was no special funding for the project.

Q. What were some of the challenges (technological or other) that you encountered?

A.There were two main challenges. First: How do we go about breaking down a complicated topic like plagiarism into easily digestible bites without losing any important content? We did this by planning out the tutorial like a traditional lesson plan and used that as our guide for hitting on all the essential material. Second: How do we deliver the content via the web so that it is accessible to the majority of our users? We decided on Macromedia Flash movies, a format that most undergrads are familiar with but we also have a text-based version available for any students with special needs.

Q. Please describe how this tutorial is currently being used at Rutgers (for example, is it targeted toward any particular group of faculty or students; how is it being combined with other aspects of your reference & user education program)?

A.The target audience for the tutorial is undergraduates, especially first-year students. We have the tutorial on our home page as part of our “How To” suite of materials. This semester, though, we are using it as part of an online information literacy instructional module. We are creating this module in partnership with the campus Psychology Department.

Q. What do you believe is the program’s strongest feature?

A.We feel (at least we hope) that the strongest feature is that this tutorial is both entertaining and instructive.

Q. How many students, faculty and staff do you reach with this program?

A.Not sure about this – we do not keep track of the number of hits that it receives. It is freely available on the Web.

Q. What sort of feedback about the program have you received from students, faculty, and staff?

A.The tutorial has been available for about a year and the feedback to date has been very positive. We have tried it on student focus groups and listened to their feedback carefully.

Q. Did you learn any lessons from creating this program? If you had the opportunity to do this project over again, would you do anything differently?

A.I think the main lesson that we walked away with was about the importance of planning. Although we had goals, outcomes, storyboards, scripts, etc. there were things that we overlooked and found that we had to retrofit. Retrofitting or otherwise re-doing is costly with regards to time.

Q. Would you like to offer any advice for other professionals looking to create a similar project at their own educational institution or library?

A.My advice to others: outline your plans, outline your plans, and then review your plans. Also, in a product designed for students, student feedback is crucial. Incorporate it early and often into the planning process.